Is Religion Without Ritual Possible?

“Religious ritual comes to the great moments of human experience to lift them up and relate them to a universe of meaning.”

In exploring his question on March 4, 1962 — is religion without ritual possible? — Rabbi Olan’s focus was on understanding the very meaning of ritual itself, from the Bible to modern day… how it supports us, why some choose to ignore it, and ultimately the vitality it gives our lives.

To Rabbi Olan, “Ritual is the art of being human,” and in that idea, ritual is poetry, art, and connection; it is an act of expressing our humanity in a way for each religion to cherish and all to appreciate.

“… life cries out for poetry, for the aesthetic, for the beautiful. One does not have to be a Catholic to appreciate the pageantry of a Catholic mass, nor a Jew to feel the beauty of the sacredness of a sabbath Table. The quiet beauty of a service on a Sunday morning in a small, white painted New England church remains as an experience of the beauty of life’s purpose.”

In these terms, ritual is an expression of religion that goes beyond a difference in belief. “Modern man needs to feel again the beauty of his life, to experience the joy of the great moments in his experience.” For Rabbi Olan, this beauty comes from the the act of religious ritual.

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